Fade to white: On endurance, care and the micropolitics of abandonment in a decommissioning nuclear town

Authors: Leila Dawney*, University of Brighton, UK
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Theory, Social Geography
Keywords: nuclear decommissioning, photography, cultural geography, deindustrialisation, subjectivity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Gallier A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Lithuanian town of Visaginas was built in the Soviet era to house the workers of the nearby Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which for a short while was the largest in the world. It was to be built in the shape of a butterfly with main arterial roads cutting between the “wings” and through the “body”. When the Soviet Union collapsed, work immediately ceased on the building of the town and the planned third and fourth reactors. Only half of the butterfly was built. When Lithuania applied for accession into the European Union in 2004, a condition of its membership was the decommissioning of the Ignalina plant. Decommissioning began in 2009 and will continue for 30 years.
Drawing on collaborative fieldwork with photographers Laurie Griffiths and Jonty Tacon, this paper pays attention to the micropolitics of endurance and world-making in Visaginas. It argues that we need to find ways of supplementing the dominant narratives and framings - what Tsing calls the stories of progress and decay - through which we know and find scholarly value in postindustrial places like Visaginas. By adopting practices of listening and attending to what else might be going on, preparing to be surprised and unsettled, and opening ourselves up to explore different understandings of the process through which grand projects appear and disappear, this paper attends to how people live in and through regimes of abandonment, and how traces of former economic subjectivities endure in practices of hope, world-making and care.

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